The One Rule to Writing

Tuesday, September 28

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

~W. Somerset Maugham

By now, we’ve probably heard plenty of writing rules. Show don’t tell, start with action, the main character must develop, pace yourself, ect.

And then, of course, there’s everyone’s personal rules. According to George Orwell, the six rules are
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print,
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do,
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out,
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active,
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent,
6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.

Or maybe you’ll prefer John Rechy’s three rules; Show don’t tell, write about what you know, and always have a sympathetic character for the reader to relate to.

If that’s not enough, there’s always Elmore Leonard’s ten rules, Kurt Vonnegut’s ten, Norman Holland’s three, or Steven Goldsberry’s one hundred and one.

I believe that there’s only one rule: Write.

Sure, learn the craft of writing. Study what makes a reader tick and publishers squeal with joy. By all means, follow writing blogs, google images of random people who resemble your characters, and make playlists for your story. But nothing will ever replace the movement of pen on paper. Less talk, more action.

Now, I know this sounds obvious, but a lot of writers (like me) catch ourselves spending more time worrying that we’re not writing instead of actually doing it.

If your butt isn’t in the chair, you will not write a word.

So, Step 1, pull out a notebook and a pencil. Sit down. Comfortable? Good, because you’re not allowed leave. Chain your ankle to the desk if you have to.

3 comment(s):

Squeaks Tuesday, September 28, 2010  

awesome possum! That's what I've done lately :P Chained myself to my chair...except my mind swirls somewhere else and I find myself daydreaming about what should happen instead of writing what is happening :P


The Golden Eagle Wednesday, September 29, 2010  

True. If you're going to call yourself a writer, you have to WRITE. Even if it means chaining yourself to a chair. I usually type out what I'm writing instead of using a pen and paper, but the chair thing is the same. :)

Fandy Sido Thursday, March 01, 2012  


Im' Fandy. And I'm working on a novel these days. Nice to find your blog. Hope we can share more about writing.

Oh By the way. I'm from Indonesia. Bali? Bali?


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